General Domain Knowledge SJTs

Underlying rationale and theory

In the past few years, an alternative paradigm has emerged which views SJTs as measures of general domain knowledge that is seen as more context-independent. In a series of papers, Motowidlo and colleagues (Motowidlo & Beier, 2010; Motowidlo, Hooper & Jackson, 2006a,b) provided the conceptual foundation for this perspective. According to these researchers, general domain knowledge pertains to general rules about the utility of behavioural acts across a wide range of situations in a specific domain. The more general this knowledge is, the more it is context-independent and the more it is broadly applicable across a wide range of situations. Importantly, general domain knowledge is not acquired from specific job experiences. Rather, general domain knowledge reflects fundamental socialization processes (parents, schooling, etc.) and personal dispositions. That is why this general domain knowledge is also referred to as implicit trait policies (ITPs; Motowidlo & Beier, 2010; Motowidlo et al., 2006b), which are inherent beliefs about the general effectiveness of actions that express traits to varying degrees. In addition, people might have learned exceptions in situations where their inherent trait expressions were not as effective and as a result had to update and modify their ITPs (Motowidlo & Beier, 2010; Motowidlo et al., 2006a). Motowidlo and Beier (2010) further refined their theory of knowledge determinants underlying SJT performance by distinguishing more explicitly between general domain knowledge and specific job knowledge as the two components making up procedural knowledge as captured by an SJT. They first demonstrated that their SJT from 1990 (which was taken to be a contextualized measure) mainly captures general domain knowledge because two scoring keys with effectiveness ratings obtained from both novices and experts largely overlapped and both were significantly related to job performance. Second, the expert key showed incremental variance (5.2%) over the novice key, indicating that while for the most part the SJT captured general domain knowledge, there was still a component of procedural knowledge that could not be solved on the basis of general domain knowledge alone. According to the authors, these expert residual scores reflect specific job knowledge, which is mostly acquired in the job or family of jobs that the SJT is targeting. Cognitive ability and personality are posited as antecedents to these two forms of procedural knowledge as captured by the SJT. The relationship between ability and procedural knowledge is based on the mechanism of one’s capacity to learn. Conversely, the relationship between personality traits and ITPs is grounded by the mechanism of dispositional fit. That is, personality traits interact with traits expressed by the different actions put forward in the SJT items in such a way that people who possess high levels of the trait expressed by the action believe that their action is truly more effective than people who have a lower standing on the trait. For instance, when judging the effectiveness of behaviours described in the response options of an SJT, individuals high on the trait of agreeableness will favour those response options that express higher levels of agreeableness more than individuals low in agreeableness (Motowidlo et al., 2006b).

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